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Vive Obama

By Tory Hoen

It suddenly just got a lot easier to be an American in Paris. I don't know what this means for the future of my blog, but I suppose the future of the world is more important.

This post is going to be less snarky than usual because since election day, my equilibrium has been thrown off. The sarcasm and cynicism that generally guide me have subsided, and my heart has been flooded with unfamiliar feelings… warmth, genuineness, humanity, hope and…. could it be… patriotism? As patriotism is a feeling I have never before experienced, it took me a while to recognize it. I never realized how badly I wanted to like my country until, at long last, I kind of do.

When I first moved to Paris, I felt that my non-Frenchness attracted a lot of attention—both negative and positive—that I didn't necessarily want. One early acquaintance asked me if I owned a gun, which was kind of funny except that he wasn't kidding.

So just when I'd learned to blend in a bit more and spent hours working on my French scowl, Obama went and turned the tide of history. Naturally, I spent last Tuesday grinning like a complete fool, hoping people would think, "Why is that cool French girl making such a happy face? Oh, she is not French at all! She must be American! C'est super cool, ça.”

I threw a little Gobama soiree on Wednesday night, and when I was shopping in my neighborhood, I couldn't help but gush to everyone I encountered… the wine guy, the cheese guy, even the saucisson guy. I’ve never been so thrilled to announce my citizenship and to declare Il faut fêter! ("One must party!") They concurred and were equally eager to share their opinions about the election.

Here's the thing: French people care about American politics. The opposite is not true. For many Americans (Sarah Palin included), their knowledge of the French political landscape extends no further than Carla Bruni’s evolving wardrobe. But from what I can tell, your average French person is informed and invested in American politics. Most of the French people I know were following the election as closely as I was, which leads me to the reassuring conclusion that French people want to like America; they just need a good reason to do so.

And now they have one!

So yes, I think this alien feeling inhabiting my body might actually be a strange form of late-blooming patriotism, if you can believe it.

In the mayhem following the announcement, I was a little sad not to be in New York to celebrate with my compatriots, who pranced through the streets like a pack of wild squirrels on the loose. One friend wrote, "Union Square last night was a big hippie party with drum circles and thousands of people chanting, 'Yes we can.' I think you would have enjoyed it." What are you implying?

But in all seriousness, it has also been amazing to experience the election from abroad, where its global impact is truly tangible.

This weekend, I was walking with a friend and two girls asked us for a lighter. Then they asked us where we were from. A week ago, I would have said "Canada." But last night, we were excited to say "We're from the states," and after we did, the first thing they said was, "Vive Obama."

It was an incredibly poignant moment—almost too poignant—except that it was completely genuine. We chatted a bit, and they went on to say how impressed they were that the US had elected a black president—a possibility they felt could not happen in France anytime soon. "One day…" we mused, actually believing it. As we walked away, it was clear that the very idea of Obama has, and will continue to, connect people all over the world in very positive ways.

So yes, I think it might actually be cool to be American again. If not cool, at least acceptable.

In a state of stupefied joy on the day after the election, I agreed to be interviewed (in French) on RMC, a French radio station. I’m sure I made no sense, but I didn't care. After eight years of darkness and shame, it was amazing to be able to speak openly, freely, and happily about the (now very real) concepts of hope, change, unity, teamwork… and a new puppy in the Whitehouse! I told the crazy French talking heads that I'm finally, "not embarrassed to be American," and I meant it.

So I may continue to have trouble opening various doors around Paris. And I may drop my shoe into the metro tracks once in a while. And I may be an incredibly conspicuous non-French spazz…

But I did help to elect Obama, and I'm going to assume that counteracts my past and future faux pas.

Vive Obama!

(Click here for the Radio Podcast. I come on about 1/3 of the way through and ramble for a couple minutes.)

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